Visitation by Bex Hainsworth

Durham, 16th August, 2020

We arrive in late summer.
This small city, once ours, appears
like the scene of a battle, long over.
The students have gone home,
the streets are empty, the gardens overgrown.
Down by the river, the trees reach
a little closer. They remember.

We explore the world
we lost, mourners returning
long after the wake. Slowly, we piece
it back together, a stained glass window,
a shrine of youth in our minds.

The pubs and cafés have changed their names,
new décor, different signs.
The cathedral and castle remain,
a keep unbreached by time’s long siege:
they weathered William and Henry,
they will survive lockdown and our leaving.

Everywhere is a holy site.
Elvet Riverside, The Hallgarth, Mitchell Street.
Gravestones shoulder the brambles
in St. Oswald’s churchyard and slope
towards the road. This is the place
I grew into myself. They have built
on our college’s playing fields
and exposed the path; the walk home
has lost its darkness.

At the end of our pilgrimage, we stand on
Prebends Bridge, the slow tourist traffic
weaving around us to take photographs.
The Wear carries a tree trunk like a longboat,
sliding silently downstream. The city
which has haunted us, its shadow falling
across our consciousness for a decade, continues.

And we are displaced, refugees of time, ghosts.

Bex Hainsworth (she/her) is a bisexual poet and teacher based in Leicester, UK. She won the Collection HQ Prize as part of the East Riding Festival of Words and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Heavy Feather Review, Ethel Zine, Atrium, Okay Donkey, Acropolis Journal, and Brave Voices Magazine. Her debut pamphlet will be published by Black Cat poetry Press in 2023. Find her on Twitter @PoetBex.